The elephant in the room in another world: Analyzing Isekai Tropes and how to Deconstruct them

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I think we are all aware that Isekai, by virtue of being a really popular genre in the lands of Japan, is flooded with really terrible stories that aren't worth the paper or the bytes they are written on, but get viewed regardless.
With that, the Generic Milquetoast 08/15 Isekai story, has amassed some tropes that are heavily associated with it, some less, some really fecked up.

Things like the Slave Harems, false underdog OP protagonists, really weird Japanese Nationalism in regards to rice and Soy Sauce, failing at deconstructing the classic fantasy by making the humans the bad guys and the demons the absolute good guys, etc.

Now then, this thread is for Collecting Tropes you find issue with, Brainstorming ideas of how to potentially deconstruct these tropes and get some cool concepts out.

Note that a proper Deconstruction requires thought and isn't as easy "Oh, we switch colors", here is an useful video on the topic:
And for the purposes of this thread, until someone decides to make a specialised thread for it, Otome Villianess stories qualify for this thread.
 
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I haven't really seen any series in recent years that discusses what happens to an Isekai protagonist's family when they die.

Maybe only Isekai-ojisan, and he woke up after a decades-long coma with his family paying his medical bills.
 
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Some easy ones:
  • Ranks going F-A then S
  • Currencies never have fractional values
On ranks:
The concept of ranks wouldn't be a problem on itself, because it makes sense to use something to indicate how good someone is at completing requests.
The issue is that ranks are assigned based on bogus parameters: often to go from G to F the MC just needs to complete a fixed number of requests, then from F to E is to kill a monster, then fighting a guy in the training center to advance to the next rank.
None of these, except maybe the one to get to rank F, really mean the person being promoted is actually able to perform the actual task.
Not to mention, if someone is unable to kill a monster for whatever reason, but is the only one clearing the herb gathering request, he/she would always be stuck at the lowest rank with all the consequences (e.g. limited rights when a dispute happens) despite contributing a lot to, for example, potion-making.
With this view ranks would not work at all, but if we really want to use them still, then at least separate them in categories: subjugation, rank G; gathering, rank B; public relations, rank D; etc.
Finally, why is it that S is the highest? If you want to go "reverse alphabetical" then the top is A, and if you have to go higher then it's A+, A++ and so on. Or use numbers: 1 is the lowest and the better you perform the higher it goes.
There was that comic about the guy going dungeoneering in another world which had very low stats except one which was "rank S"; upon seeing it the FMC (one of many) said he was even lower than her's (she's weak) since the letter S comes after the letter F.

On currencies:
Almost every isekai is set into worlds inspired by european middle-ages, renaissance at most.
In Europe every currency ever existing always had fractional values, be it a cent, a penny, a farthing, or whatever else.
In Japan (and I think other asian countries) the currency in use is a unit: 1 yen is the lowest possible value.
Obviously since isekai are made in Japan the conversion between the other wold currency and the MC's world is made based on the yen, but then they make it like: bronze coin is one yen, silver coin is 1000 yen, gold coin is 1000000 yen.
If you add that authors never use any of these informations except when the quest reward is "10000 gold" or something like that, so it's more about big numbers than actual currency conversion, using fractional values for the other world currency would make the (limited) world building more detailed with very little effort.
Instead of bronze being equal to 1 yen, it could be silver is 1 yen, bronze is half a silver, copper is half a bronze, gold is 10 silvers.
 
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Japan seems to have this weird fascination with slavery in fiction, yet only surface level. The slave market only exists to serve the plot and it never exists outside of it. The main character, who often espouses the highest virtues, will often support this with very little moral conflict (if any at all). It's even worse when the slave trade is actively believed to be something negative in universe, yet there are no repercussions towards the MC for buying one.

If we want to use slavery then we have to define the kinds of slavery that are "ok" and what aren't. Debt slavery should be seen as the most "OK" since it's essentially the result of defaulting on a loan. There are historical precedents of debt slaves having forms of legal protection, too. So we can just say being a debt slave is like going into a job for set amount of years where the owner can't abuse you but you also have to do your job.

Less acceptable should be war/kidnapping slavery, catching people from war torn lands should always be seen as a scummy thing to do since these people do not have any form of protection or friends or family. It should be seen as taking advantage of the weak and should be outright looked down on. So if anyone is caught with this form of slave, they should be jailed immediately (cough cough MC cough cough).

Then we have Sexual Slavery. Simply put, you restrict them to brothels or you include the UB tag on your manga.

Another thing would be slavery absolve. It would always be in the best interest of a kingdom to have a way for slaves to be brought back into society as normal every day people...because normal every day people can work jobs and pay taxes. Meaning it would likely. For example, if a slave was taken in from another country by war slavers, that slave should be immediately absolved of the slave status and given help to find a place to work and rest. This does two things, one it makes another head count in your kingdom that you profit from and two it builds you loyalty and good rapport.

After we figure out the basic structure of the slave system we have to figure out how they interact with society. With the use of magic we can do a sort of magical contract that simply binds the master and slave together for a period of time, so we don't need to make any aggressive marks on people to out them as slaves. Don't get the point of that trope. If a slave is bound to someone by magic they don't need a mark letting others know they're slaves and potentially getting them used for ransom.

If we want their societal impact to be felt then we need to figure how much of the economy runs off slave labor. Are they a large portion of the societal work? They're obviously going to be treated better since they take up the most space. Are they a small part of the place? People likely wouldn't think too much of them because they're not seen too often.

With this basic framework we can imagine that perhaps there are businesses that use this charity to their advantage and hire debt slaves continually. For example there could be several well known businesses in the kingdom that hire debt slaves regularly and treat them fairly as well as others who don't. Heck, it might just be one of the things businesses do because, why not? Free labor with the only things you need to worry about are food, shelter and not violating the abuse clause? Just let em sleep in your house and don't chop them into bits.

Maybe slaves can work directly under the kingdom if they have the aptitude. Hunters, gatherers, miners, soldiers etc.

Historically speaking there were slave masters who took very good care of their slaves, maybe have some slaves in leadership roles? Possibly a principal of an art academy who was taken in as a debt slave while being a teenager, learned it from their master and continued with it? Or he went into debt trying to be a career artist and not he runs the academy as a debt slave to the kingdom? Or the bank? There's a lot you could do with the concept if you really wanted to.

I didn't even write much about the world but even with this basic fleshing out, I would be invested a little more into seeing how the world interacted. But I wrote this so I'm biased.
 
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I haven't really seen any series in recent years that discusses what happens to an Isekai protagonist's family when they die.

Maybe only Isekai-ojisan, and he woke up after a decades-long coma with his family paying his medical bills.
In UQ holder, the bonus lives guy was isekai'd, and when he went back, time had simply stopped until he returned
 
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So apart from the slavery part being my most hated Isekai trope (and manga trait in general) the thing that really pisses me off in so many Isekai is this:

MC will be either reincarnated and live a life up to say like 16 or are like a middle ageish person who becomes like 16 or so and they act like a 16yr old even though mentally they are middle age. So not only do they not act their mental age but then they'll also somehow be super dense when they'll literally have men/women draping themselves on them clearly in love/lust.

One series that while I like it has a different issue, Enough with This Slow Life! I Was Reincarnated as a High Elf and Now I’m Bored where it keeps forgetting the MC is a human made High Elf and for some reason someone with a human mind has the time perception of an Elf? Also he thinks like an elf way too often for again a human in an elf body and somehow never seems to know how humans think.

Another series that does this is Meiou-sama ga Tooru no desu yo! which also constantly seems to forget the MC was human from like the word go.
 
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And for the purposes of this thread, until someone decides to make a specialised thread for it, Otome Villianess stories qualify for this thread.
So, you opened this door yourself. Why is it Villianesses are not actually villainous?
Even though I don't like labeling something as "deconstruction", because in my opinion, it is a "cheap" trick, and any proper work will not be viewed as "deconstruction", even if at the time of its writing it was one. I can understand the idea of "reincarnating" not into a heroine of the Otome game, but an antagonist of the story, and subsequent hardships, etc. It is fine for a couple of works, but now that Villianes reincarnation is its own separate genre, I feel like it's long overdue we have some differences from actual Otome reincarnations. You have such a broad field to work with, yet you choose to just make Villianes not evil. Shakespeare wrote his Richard III decades ago, yet you can't make an actual villain (ess) protagonist of the story? Better yet show how with the prior knowledge you can not only achieve but also secure your victory.
(Bonus points for yuri, because I like it, and any self-sufficient villainess does not require male leads and whatnot, to obtain satisfaction.)
 
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the purpose of the slavery trope is to provide a setting where the women are pleasant and obedient, and there's no feminism, without the need to explicitly question women's emancipation. it's a reflection of everyone's desire for pre-modern marriage, and men's desire for better-behaved women. so it's probably not going anywhere soon!
 
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the purpose of the slavery trope is to provide a setting where the women are pleasant and obedient, and there's no feminism, without the need to explicitly question women's emancipation. it's a reflection of everyone's desire for pre-modern marriage, and men's desire for better-behaved women. so it's probably not going anywhere soon!
Wouldn't it be interesting to see a Harem trope tackle this but turn it on it's head with emancipation. By that I mean the MC would get Isekai'd into a younger body, be abhorred by the slavery and start collecting slaves only to free them and teach them to live their own lives freeing their mind from slavery. The "harem" would grow ever larger as more slaves are acquired and freed and the estate has to grow to accommodate the increase in personnel.

You'd have to figure out the business end of it to feed all those mouths to get started or found your own country like in Sekai de Tadahitori no Mamono Tsukai ~Tenshoku Shitara Maou ni Machigawa Remashita to continue your ideals. You could still have all of the interpersonal relationships and even still have women falling for the MC, but because he is older then his actual body he never pursues a romantic relationship with anyone and develops a close relationship with the one person who took the time to really understand him and they become besties but not romantic and it's such a relief to have a friend in the world rather than women who develop romantic feelings for their "savior." Heck you could even give the backstory needed to explain the MC savior complex.
 
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  • Currencies never have fractional values
The real trope for fantasy money, is that people actually have enough hard currency for all their commerce needs. That's not how it was for most of Middle Ages.
What I'd rather do, is make a story where people don't deal in money at all. Perhaps a fantasy kingdom whose economics are on Stone Age gift economy level, or a fantasy society that is operates on some flavor of Communism.
 
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The real trope for fantasy money, is that people actually have enough hard currency for all their commerce needs. That's not how it was for most of Middle Ages.
What I'd rather do, is make a story where people don't deal in money at all. Perhaps a fantasy kingdom whose economics are on Stone Age gift economy level, or a fantasy society that is operates on some flavor of Communism.
Actually now that I think about it, some currancies did have fractions Like this.
 
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Speaking of money, there are two more interesting options.

Option one, is that some forces are deliberately flooding economy with precious metals to ensure a money-based economy and fast technological progress it entails. Perhaps dungeons are created by aliens who seek to uplift locals. Maybe even aliens who are actually the future humanity. Which is why monsters drop coins when they have no reason to have coins.

Option two, is that there are three kinds of metal coins, and they are not fractions of each other. Instead, they measure things of incomparable value. Copper coins are used to trade for ordinary goods. Silver coins are used to trade in magic items (which cannot be created through ordinary labor). And gold coins express the value of human life, and used in marriage ceremonies and when sending people on suicide missions. There is no exchange rate, and great dishonor to exchange one kind of coin for another.
 
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The real trope for fantasy money, is that people actually have enough hard currency for all their commerce needs. That's not how it was for most of Middle Ages.
That's perfectly fine. We are still within the bounds of suspension of disbelief.
Inflation as a world-building element for fantasy work is not really as interesting as people might think.
 
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when fantasy is stale, as it often is, it's because the setting lacks depth and verisimilitude. the worst sources of this are the tropes inherited from old video & pnp games that made shabby abstractions in the service of gameplay - job classes, levels, monsters dropping coins, etc. it's definitely worthy effort to crack any of these open and imagine something more reasonable. it's not that more realistic settings are already more engaging inherently. rather they enable more engaging stories to be told within them. it's just groundwork but it's useful.
 
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That's perfectly fine. We are still within the bounds of suspension of disbelief.
Inflation as a world-building element for fantasy work is not really as interesting as people might think.
My complaint is when the MC has more money then several kingdoms. Like how can they A. Afford that and B. Hw did that not tank the economies?
 
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My complaint is when the MC has more money then several kingdoms. Like how can they A. Afford that and B. Hw did that not tank the economies?
Consider a dragon lying on a pile of treasure. That's probably a lot of treasure, more than a typical king has in his treasury.
They do not tank the economy, because the dragon is not spending it. The things a dragon wants, are just more treasure, and things that aren't for sale, like princesses.
MC having a lot of money deflates the economy, because that money is taken out of circulation.
 
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You know what I'd like to see? Somebody taking a closer look on the Adventurers' Guild, a huge multi-national organization in a world of small kingdoms and general feudalism. Also, it's often hard to figure out how it's getting the books balanced.

I think one take was in "Combatants will be dispatched", where it's founded by an otherworlder. And another take was in that shoujo manga where female lead trained a lot to be a guild receptionist, and the duties include scouting out the quest areas to assign difficulty to quests. And I liked how in Average Abilities, it's called "Hunters' Guild", because that's what many fantasy adventurers really are - glorified hunters of fantasy creatures.

How about somebody makes it a religious organization? Holy Order of Adventurous Monster Slaying or something.
Or maybe a gentlemen's club, where well-to-do people think of ways to have fun adventures.
 
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I have a weird fascination with gods and divinity, and isekai always baffles me with how it's presented. First of all, in the stories that tackle the mechanics of isekai, there's nearly always some god or goddess of reincarnation, which always baffles me. I get that having it be a natural process is hard to convey, but it always seems like its some grand scheme of some god to pull random kids that died before their time was up and give them OP powers or something.

And then there's the gods themselves, its quite often a mediterranean/japanese approach to godhood, having a pantheon of gods each dedicated to one or a few specific things, or of course, the monotheistic/dualistic approach of one ruler god and one evil god/demon (king). They do often tie in some themes of animism, what with spirits you use to control magic and them being manifestations of natural phenomenon, but its always approached from a mechanical perspective(spiritmancers, somatic/verbal components calm certain spirits, etc.), not a religious one.

And religious organizations kind of throw themselves into a few groups, character class religions, totallyNotJustChristianity(tm), or spooky cult religions. Like the rogue who worships the god of theivery/luck, the MC either not choosing a religion(it'd make them less of an everyman) or picking the most generic one(or the one that ties into the story's Bullshit Philosophy[also tm]), and the antagonist picking the spooky evil one(its always one).

I could go on about how to fix or do all of these differently, but I'll just give a single example each.
Reincarnation can simply be a part of the setting, every character having reincarnated from another world, maybe its a set in stone path with a defined beginning world.
Folkloric deities can be fun, very localized gods that are unique to a region, and more personable and influential in the actual story.
There are some really interesting, less commonly (used?) religions like judaism, which has debate on the meaning of its religious text as a core part of its practice, or old, cultic religions, which when not portrayed as inherently evil, can be really interesting to fully explore.
 

TGN

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As others have pointed out, slave magic (as well as all other forms of psychological magic) is severely underdeveloped in anime. No one seems to understand the depths of the rabbit hole they open up.

I'll focus on slave magic. First, think about the slavery we have in our world. Why does it happen? How do people enforce it? Why do people submit to it? Most importantly: Are slaves still human beings with their own individuality?

Now, think about your average slave magic. It doesn't particularly matter the details, but there are four main points that give rise to absurd power:
a. A master can enslave a victim whether or not the victim is willing (pretty average stuff)
b. A slave must obey all commands that are given to them by the master (wow, slaves)
c. There is no limit on the number of slaves a master can own, or the limit can be expanded with relative ease (I don't think any anime ever mentioned a limit)
d. A slave can enslave a victim for the master or for themselves (While not in any anime I know of, no anime doesn't explicitly disallow this either. Either way, this is the fun point)

To bring the strength of this magic into perspective, connecting it to our own world may help. Imagine you are the boss of a moderately-sized criminal organization in our own world. One day, you gain slave magic (e.g. You learn it somehow, you find a box with infinite slave collars, etc.). Think, how would you use this power for your own personal gain?

Here's a checklist for conquering the world:
1. Enslave the organization's inner circle. Already you have extreme power. The top brass cannot betray you, cannot spill secrets, cannot lie, cannot leave, they will follow every one of your orders perfectly.

2. Enslave the rest of the organization. You now have total control of the group. By ordering your slaves to generally act normally, family members won't detect anything, police will experience no change, even the slaves may not know they're slaves.

3. Enslave the local populace, particularly people in positions of power. Order them to enslave more people.

4. Enslave government officals. Arrange meetings with celebrities or other influencers. You now have total control of the country.

5. Enslave other countries. Send out assassins, not to kill, but to enslave. Take control of whole countries of people, their officials, their celebrities, their rebels, their extremists, their sons and daughters.

6. If an organization attempts to resist, crush them. Demonstrate your power in front of the international community and issue an ultimatum: "surrender or I will order millions of men and women, youth and elderly, healthy and diseased, to charge at your cities and fortresses."

7. Nothing can oppose you. It would be extremely difficult to detect slave sleeper agents, riots across the globe may be breaking out, and an ungodly humanitarian crisis may be about to unfold. Governments, organizations, institutions, everything folds.

8. Congratulations, you are now god-emperor of the world! No one can disobey you, no one can rebel, you can order billions to play out whatever fantasy you want.

Imagine a world where everyone has this kind of power.

In our world, slaves at least had some form of agency. They obeyed orders due to fear of punishment, of death, or because of previous torture. Slaves had some potential to resist, to rebel, to disobey, to die fighting. Slave magic can override all of that. One obeys because they were told to. Slave magic denies the free will of a person, violates the sanctity of the mind. Instead of their own individual person, a slave is no more than an extension of the master's body.

Without hard limits on its power, slave magic has the potential to completely uproot society as we know it. Even with significant limits, slave magic still can have power. For example, even without any of the four above points, small cults and other extremist groups can utilize it's power to garner even more fervent following from their followers. Imagine the KKK, North Korea, the Khmer Rouge with the ability to gain completer control over their subjects.

Slave magic is one of the most potent forms of magic. Unlike other magics which have mainly physical effects and can only dominate with force and suppression, slave magic acts on the mind and can grant one the most loyal followers of all.

it is a shame that slave magic is only used for slavery.
 
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Here's a checklist for conquering the world:
In fantasy, you'd run afoul of a secret cabal of mind mages around step 2. And run afoul of gods at step 3, when you enslave a priest who's actually in good standing with the gods.
Brainwashed assassins of the cabal of mind mages aren't all that dangerous, but annoying. But assassins sent by the gods have the power to just break through the front, shrug off magic and steel, and kill everyone. And they know where you live.

Your assumption that enslave magic is undetectable in a fantasy world is definitely the weak link. Fantasy people have to deal with magic a lot, and they often have ability to sense it. Sensing magic is often seen as a prerequisite to becoming a spellcaster.
 

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